Aphisit Sangthong (As.billprint)
After Aphisit saw photos of animals harmed by plastic pollution, he set out to tackle environmental issues with his woodcut printmaking.
“I was devastated to see a turtle that could not breathe because a straw was stuck in its nose. There have been many photos of animals in trouble due to plastic pollution. It is unfair for these animals since it is not their fault. Aside from animals, innocent babies will eventually have to deal with pollution they did not cause,” said Aphisit.
The 25-year-old researched the environment by observing people around him, reading books and updating himself on environmental news. Aphisit said he observed human behaviour because people are the root cause of environmental issues, so he wants to understand people’s behaviour. “For example, a trash can is located in front of my dormitory. I noticed that garbage collectors came to pick up the trash every day but the amount of trash never decreased. This means people cause trash pollution daily and are not aware of it,” said Aphisit.
Aphisit is known for images of monkeys in previous works that signified and satirised people’s behaviour. In this collection, apart from monkeys, he used images of children and a woodcut image that was inspired by the renowned painting Ophelia by British artist Sir John Everett Millais.
His black and white woodcuts have recieved praise from viewers for elaborate details.
“Many viewers say my woodcut pieces have small, thin engraving lines that usually cannot be shown with the woodcut technique. When I was a third-year student at the PohChang Academy of Arts, I discovered that black woodcut inks from different brands have different black shades, so I blended them together. As a result, the mixture of the two brands provides a stable outcome and small engraving details can be shown,” said Aphisit.
Parallel World is the first woodcut in the collection which depicts three monkeys sitting in front of a grocery store surrounded with garbage. Two monkeys are seen drinking soft drinks with straws while the other monkey carries garbage on his back.
“In this woodcut, the monkeys behave like people in daily life. They use and throw away plastic bags every day. The monkey that carries the garbage represents people who are aware of plastic pollution. Monkeys in my collections symbolise people. It is meant to show how people develop everything for their convenience. They consider new technology an improvement but these improvements destroy the environment. I personally think good technology should be compatible with the environment and not destroy it,” explained Aphisit.
Not Fair portrays an image of a child wearing an oxygen mask, sitting in a plastic bag full of polluted water.
“It is unfair for children to live in this polluted environment. Not Fair displays a child drowning in a bag of water and garbage. Trash pollution is a global issue which cannot be solved because it is accumulated daily. While old trash has not been taken care of, new trash is added to the pile. In the collection, I also tackle issues of water pollution, PM2.5 and the Covid-19 pandemic because these issues are connected and caused by people,” said Aphisit.
Ophelia’s New World was inspired by the classic painting Ophelia. In the original painting, the beautiful gowned lady Ophelia floats face up, drowned in a river, but in Ophelia’s New World, Ophelia is in a bottle of wastewater. “It is Ophelia in the 21st century, so she drowns in wastewater with garbage, a snail and a water monitor lizard,” said Aphisit.
The artist hopes that his woodcut will encourage people to have more interest in environmental issues.
“Many international followers on my social media have told me that my works are sad but they have good intention. These followers understand that we have to speak up about negative effects of environmental damage, so people will wake up to the reality. I hope the young Thai generation will pay attention to the environmental issues as much as politics. If the environmental issues become a Twitter trend like politics, it would be terrific,” concluded Aphisit.